If you are planning a trip to the US anytime and like to have the use of your cellphone while there, you better read this!
If you are looking for some additional options on the AT&T network, you can look at one of the mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) on their network.
H2O Wireless (Formerly O2 Wireless) – SIM cards can be purchased online, in retailers in the US such as Bestbuy for $10 or on eBay for less.
If you are planning a longer trip, T-Mobile also offers many plans where you pay per month. T-Mobile also has some MVNO’s of their own, one of which is designed specifically for Canadians called Roam Mobility.
I think the rates on the T-Mobile network are the best, but it really depends on many factors that are individual to every person.
Personally, as someone who goes to the USA a few times a year (in general) what I have is a T-Mobile To Go line which I have kept active for years. For data, I add a data roaming plan not mentioned here and try to stay on WiFi in the USA when I can. Today, T-Mobile launched the Samsung T119.  The Samsung SGH-T119 made its first appearance at CES 2009.
If you haven’t already experienced a ridiculously large cell phone bill after heading south of the border in the past then you have been very lucky! There are many places in Toronto that will do this for you, just look on Craigslist or check out Stellar Cellular (I went last week and was told it would be $20 to unlock and update an iPhone 3Gs). They offer a pay per day option for $2 per day which includes unlimited nation wide talk and text but no data.
Some sellers can be found on eBay with very high reliability that sell the SIM’s with shipping to Canada for less than $5.

They offer Pay By The Day plans that range from $1 to $3 per day for unlimited nation wide talk, text & data.
A friend of mine told me about them and swears by them but I have yet to try out their service. If you plan to talk and text to Canada a lot, then I think the options from Roam Mobility are excellent! You must be in the USA to sign up (they check IP) but once you do you’ll have a Google Voice number which you can forward to ANY American number(s). Nowadays everyone has a smartphone and I know many people that have returned to Canada after a 3-4 day trip to discover a $300+ cell phone bill. The reason you need to get your phone unlocked is this allows you to put in a SIM card from any carrier, which you should be able to do when you buy the phone but the Canadian companies try to make it as difficult as possible for you to use your device with any other company.
They will typically also work on T-Mobile for voice and text, but may require that you only utilize their slow speed data network. Their plans range from $3 to $8 per day but unlike T-Mobile allow unlimited talk and text to Canada! If you plan on using your phone mainly for local calls, text and data, then I think the T-Mobile Pay Per Day plan offers the best value. The reason that T-Mobile To Go was the winning choice for me is because once you spend $100 (in any combination of $10, $25, $50, or $100) in T-Mobile refills you qualify for Gold Reward Status which means ANY money you put on has an expiry date ONE YEAR after you put the money on – not 30, 60, 90, or 120 days.
For the T-Mobile plan that u load up with $100, do you then use the pay-per-day plan when you are there or how does that work?
It didn’t illicit oohs and aahs from people present at CES and literally came out with a low profile. This is understandable as the SGH-T119 couldn’t quite compete with phones such as the Motorola Renew W233 and the second version of the T-Mobile Shadow. The problem is the rates that companies like Rogers, Telus and Bell charge for Canadian customers roaming in the United States are INSANE!

Wind, Mobilicity and Videotron will typically work on the T-Mobile networks (including high speed), but will not be compatible with AT&T. The promotions are constantly changing and chances are this article will be outdated within a few months so it is best to do a little investigation of your own. Also, once you’re signed up you can access you GoogleVoice inbox from Canada and can use it to text people in the USA.
According to The Neilsen Company, smartphone users currently average 606.1MB of data per month. I used T-Mobile’s $2 per day option on my last trip and though the data speeds are extremely slow (2G), I spent $27 total for my SIM plus the minimum of $15 loaded to my account and was very happy with it!
The data plan is a little different from T-Mobile though and is based on the number of days you will be in the US. Hopefully this article gives you some ideas of where to start and if you come accross anything I missed, or an even better deal, leave a comment below. It has its quirks but it offers a simple, easy-to-use design that should be accessible to cell phone newbies. For example, if you were to try to find travel data pack (see options in the image below) that would cover this kind of usage for a 1 week vacation, you would be looking to spend $88 for a pack that would only get you 100MB of data, 40 minutes of voice and 100 text messages.
Another thing to note is your balance will last on T-Mobile for up to 3 months, so if you are a frequent traveller, this is a great option! Go over any of these limits and you will be paying around $6 per MB for data, $0.75 per text message and $1.45 per minute for voice!

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